Dallas Mavericks’ Defensive Production Has Fallen Off A Cliff

Jason Kidd, Mavericks, NBA
Mar 1, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd watches from the sideline as they take on the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

For a large portion of February, the Dallas Mavericks were the hottest team in the NBA. A big reason for that success was their performance on the defensive side of the ball, where they were stifling their opponents.

During the seven-game winning streak they went on, the Mavericks were first in the NBA in defensive rating. The team’s deadline acquisitions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington were fitting in well and the team was rolling.

However, if there is one thing that NBA teams do well during the season it is adjust gameplans. Teams will look for ways to improve on the edges, seeking out any sort of advantage they can bring to the court on any given night.

During that seven-game winning streak, Dallas held all of their opponents to 113 or fewer points, averaging 105.4 points against. A big reason for that success was some great luck on the opponent’s 3-point shooting.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jason Kidd, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks Updates

As pointed out by Grant Afseth of NBA Analysis Network and DallasBasketball.com, the weakness in 3-point shooting by the Mavericks’ opponents enabled them to cheat a bit on defense. With no fear of opponents beating them from beyond the arc, Dallas thrived.

During that stretch, the Mavericks faced some underwhelming shooting teams. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks were ranked in the top half of the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. 

New York barely qualified, ranking 15th on the season and being extremely short-handed. With the NBA Trade Deadline earlier that day, the Knicks’ rotation because of a trade and injuries was Miles McBride, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Hartenstein, Taj Gibson, Charlie Brown Jr. and Jacob Toppin. Hartenstein was injured in the first half, making them even more short-handed.

Against improved shooting opponents, it should come as no surprise that the Mavericks’ game plan was no longer working. Teams that can shoot from long-range took full advantage of the defensive game plan, flipping the script on Dallas.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jason Kidd, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks Updates

After ranking first in defensive rating during the seven-game winning streak, the Mavericks have been last in the NBA in defensive rating since the All-Star Break. In six games, Dallas has gone 2-4 with a defensive rating of 124.4.

The game plan that led to success earlier in February will not lead to consistent results. The Mavericks have learned this the hard way, as head coach Jason Kidd needs to get back to the drawing board and figure out a new plan.

Currently, the Mavericks are in eighth place in the Western Conference. However, they are only one game behind the Phoenix Suns, who are in sixth place, holding the final spot outside of the NBA Play-In Tournament.

If Dallas wants to avoid the Play-In or be surpassed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in the standings, they need to improve defensively. They have the offensive firepower to keep up with anyone with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving leading the way, but they need to start playing defense more consistently to have any chance at making some real noise.

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